Introducing Joe Nick Garza: A resident of San Antonio, Texas,Jo Nick Garza spent part of his earlier years along with his parents and siblings as migrant workers in Lawrence County, Illinois and Knox County, Indiana. During recent communication with "Joe Nick" he agreed to share some of his life experiences with the Lawrence County Historical Society. His lifetime accomplishments are an inspiration to many: migrant worker, husband and father to a wonderful family, outstanding student and later an outstanding educator in San Antonio, and a very capable administrator and superintendent in the San Antonio school system. In the private sector he became a professional musician and member of many jazz and dance bands. He was also the director of music for the very historic San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.
Life Experiences as written by Joe Nick Garza:
Vincennes, Indiana - Summers 1948 to 1959
My father took us to work for the Vincennes Tomato Packing Company in Vincennes, Indiana, in the summer of 1948. The company provided a dwelling across the street from their packing shed. The family transplanted hundreds of acres of tomatoes using transplanting machines when possible, then cleared the fields of weeds and finally harvested tomatoes. In some of those summers we were provided a dwelling located in the Charles Robinson Sr. farm. In between those phases in the tomato business, the family worked in the production of hybrid seed corn for Charles H. Schenk &Sons located south of Vincennes. We eliminated "suckers" in both yellow and white corn fields and then detasseled those fields when corn stalks matured to that level. We could yank suckers at ground level in white corn plants; however, we had to use machetes to cut the suckers from yellow corn plants. Yanking did not work with yellow corn. And in between that work the family picked peaches for both the like Orchards and the Purcell Orchards located north of Vincennes. We learned we had to wear long sleeve shirts and bandanas around our necks to protect ourselves from the peach fuzz that could penetrate our pores and itch like the dickens. We also had to be wary of the poison ivy and poison oak ground cover around the peach trees.
We were also provided dwellings by the Schenks in some of those years. We also worked for other farmers chopping down sunflower-like plants from soybean fields and picking watermelons and cantaloupes for others.
The summer of 1959 was the last summer we worked in Indiana. The Schenks and/or related industry had developed pollen-less corn eliminating the need for us to chop down the suckers and detasseling the corn fields.
IIlinois ...... Latta Farms 1952-1954
My brother, already married by then, came in contact with Alvin Mahrenholz to work in Mr. Mahrenholz' Latta Farms. Mr. Mahrenholz provided a home for him and the remaining members of our family: my dad, mom, sisters Nerea, Noelia, Nelida (Nellie) and myself. Nellie and I enrolled at Hutton 5th Elementary School, a two-room schoolhouse. Mr. Mack, the principal, taught in a classroom of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders while Miss Bessie taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in the other classroom. Nerea and Noelia enrolled in school at Lawrenceville Township High School in Lawrenceville. My brother and my father worked at the farm in the fall of 1952. It was in the Fall of 1952 when my father and brother took my mother to Brownsville, Texas, to take her exam for becoming a naturalized American citizen. My mother was so very proud that she had finally become an American citizen.
(Ed Note: Thanks to J and J Faro for this week's articles.)